tv Al Jazeera World News LINKTV May 9, 2013 7:00pm-7:31pm PDT
welcome to another session of beliefs and believers. i'm dr. john simmons and we are moving on through the semester here, thoroughly ensconced in the doctrinal dimension. but since doctrine sometimes can be a tough road to hoe, why don't we start out with something fun here- a joke. anybody have a joke? a joke? yeah, go ahead. >> it's a george carlin-
the comedian- it's his joke. someone in the audience asked him did he believe in the ten commandments. he said, 'yes, i do believe in the commandments- six commandments and four suggestions." >> that's a good one with doctrine, because when we're talking about doctrine, as you know, and ethics, we're at the very heart of the course, which is belief and behavior. and we've mentioned several functions of doctrine, and today i want to take another spin on that and look at the tension in the doctrinal dimension between the sacred and the secular. so often the deeply religious have a problem with the secular world, and for others, like us, it's difficult to see where that demarcation is, that line between what is the mundane, what's the ordinary, and what is special and what is sacred. and we've talked about iliade and looking at symbols and we've looked where people have gotten holy symbols. but for some groups,
building a doctrinal- i don't know if wall is the right word, but the brain isn't quite working yet, so we'll use wall- but they build a doctrinal wall between the secular and the sacred world. and we could pick many, many different groups in order to look at that, but two that people seem to have a lot of interest in and i want to look at today in this class- first off, the amish, the old amish. people know of them if nothing else- the hit movie witness seemed to have brought them out on the map. so we'll look at the amish, but also the mormons, and look at two very different ways that groups have gone about this task of keeping the secular and the sacred apart. now the amish, of course- we'll do them first- but with the amish, they literally built a cultural wall. they've taken 18th century customs, they've built this wall of nonconformity to the world, and they struggle- believe me, they really do struggle to keep that world out. so we want to look at some
of their background and also how this struggle becomes even more difficult today. so we'll start with the amish. now, i picked the mormons as the second one because they've taken another turn on this. rather than blocking out the secular world- and this is not unique to mormons- they've sacralized the secular world- they've taken the whole drama of their religion, historically and on up to the present, and they've made the daily workings of life a sacred drama- a sacred mythic drama, to go back to that. and so we want to look at some of the doctrines in mormonism that allow them to do that. so an interesting class- another way of looking at the power of doctrine as belief, and it's affect on behavior, or the ethical dimension, on the believers. so if we could, to get us thinking about the amish, we want to look at them first, and i'm going to be doing some graphics, give us a little historical background, because so many people know a little bit about them, but i want to place them in a long tradition of protests. but to get us more visually involved here, i'd like to go
to a roll-in on the amish. now this shows your typical dumb religious studies professor out in the field, but we go out with this crew and all our cameras and everything, knowing full well that for those reasons doctrinally based in nonconformity, that the amish do not want their pictures taken. so we tried and we tried and we met them and we cajoled, and we got buggy rides and we ate sausage and we just had a great old time. but no videotape! so we did the best we could, a little bit of a monologue standing out there, took some pictures of the buggies and the amish life- here we're in the area of illinois- just to get some of the feel for it. so if we could, let's go to the roll-in on the amish. >> this is definitely not your father's oldsmobile. the sticker price on this baby will set you back more than a few bucks, back, well, a few hundred years and about 7,000 miles way to reformation europe, where we find the roots of the old amish. today we're in arthur, illinois,
talking to the old amish, trying to understand their lifestyle. now in class, the most important subject that we've been dealing with lately has been doctrine- the power of doctrine, the function of doctrine. why would anyone want to drive a horse and buggy when they can drive this shiny new american car? well, certainly, the horse and buggy gets better gas mileage- i understand it runs on one bale of unleaded hay. but there's a much more important reason why this is. that has to do with the fact that doctrines mean such a great importance to the amish. of the many contributions that come from the protestant reformation, a unique one that comes from the family that the old amish belong to is the vital need to separate from secular society. on one hand, you have the power, the temptation of technology here in arthur, illinois- the amish say, "no way. we're holding back. we're staying with the old style, the lifestyle of previous time." for them, that is the most authentic doctrine
that they can come up with- a doctrine that represents the apostolic church- an actualization of simplicity, of devotion, of spirituality- which for them is the most important grounding foundation in their life. so for some folks, perfectly fine to have a car; for the amish, it's the simplicity of the buggy, the simplicity of the horse, the simplicity of the agrarian life and these wonderful buildings around us- that's the power of doctrine. there is perhaps no more an intriguing chapter in the american saga of beliefs and believers than the story of the old amish. popularized by the hit movie witness, the plain folk for centuries have clearly been protestants. in fact, their roots go back to one of the greatest doctrinal battles in modern history- a radical reformation in the 16th century. but unlike reformers such as martin luther or john calvin, the amish interpreted the bible
as demanding absolute avoidance of modern secular society- a corrupting society to boot. and in their attempts to actualize apostolic beliefs, these believers froze a culture- non-religious customs of 17th century europe are now identifying characteristics of the amish. the horse and horsepower certainly replaces the tractor. hooks and eyes replace buttons. bonnets and aprons are evident. broad-brimmed hats, ears and long hair. once again, the fascinating relationship between belief and behavior. the amish are still protesting today. their very presence represents an intrusion of sacred space in the compromising world of modernity, for the amish reject any of the luxuries and/or technological developments that are part of everyday life in a modern community. farming, of course, does rely on horsepower, but the horse and buggy are more important- they replace the automobile.
and yet, the outside visitor to amish country can't help but notice a thousand strange little compromises the amish seem to make with the modern world. for example, on a trip down a country road through amish country, the amish want to avoid pesky visitors with cameras, and yet signs dot these roads, advertising canned vegetables, honey, cabinet making. they'll be happy to talk to you about their various doctrines and their lifestyle, but you dare not take a picture- no cameras are allowed. they're happy to ride in a car, but they dare not drive. they would never use a combine to harvest their crops, and yet they would have their crops harvested by a neighbor who is non-amish. and cabinet making- some very successful and beautiful furniture are made, and yet they won't use electricity from the normal electric power company; they would buy gas and run a gasoline generator
in order to run the machinery. these compromises are very interesting. if a foundation breaks down on a barn, well, you call the local cement truck to save it. but if the amish from time to time seem to strike a bargain with modern times, and if their customs- and sometimes these customs seem quaint or lly- are a bargain, it's a bargain that has allowed them to protect amish culture. they might turn around and ask the english- a term they use for anyone outside their group- "what do your secular beliefs bring you? we have beautiful farms, a simple life. you run off to cities, take jobs you hate, lock your parents in homes when they get old, don't have the sense of family we have, don't have the sense of beauty in a quiet, agricultural life." in fact, these believers are doing just fine, thank you. not only have they kept the modern world with all its problems at bay, nationally, they have grown from a meager band of 5,000 in 1900 to over 100,000 today.
and their farms survive while many modern farms are failing. in fact, they survive very well, and simplicity and beauty and a sense of family and community. so the dilemma of the amish faith is a dilemma we find throughout our exploration of world views- the ideal of standing apart from secular society must be balanced by the very real need to be a part of the world. so though the door closes, it must again open on the modern world around it. >> you know, since we've done that video interview, you see it's not so much that they're freezing a culture, what's going on here is more along the line of it's a nonconformity but with three great institutions in mind- the family, of course, the church, by all means, but also the economic basis. so these compromises take a lot
of work and a lot of effort, and if you've seen any movies on the amish, you see how that transpires. but can we go this far? can we use this new appliance? can we use this new theme? well, if it supports the church, it supports the family, it supports the economic institutions, fine. at the same time, it's a constant working to keep that doctrinal wall- to use my terminology- in this case, in order to move through it. but before we go through the graphics, questions that you might have? yeah, jamie? >> is the prohibition against videography or photography in general just a reflection of a technological culture that they reject or is it something more specific about an image on paper? >> it's a very good question, because we tried- naturally, we tried to get some answer to that, and oh, they at first would do a little song and dance about one of the first commandments about not making a graven image. but you know what? what it really comes down to is they feel that something like that would compromise their
situation here. but you know, there's- we'll get to the graphics here to give you some background on it- but this idea of separating from the world, of moving from the world because the world, essentially, will draw you down from your spiritual roots. but where we go with that is back to the protestant reformation, as many of you might know. with the protestant reformation, we're talking here the 1500s through 1700- it's a time in which great turmoil was going on in the christian church, and we've looked at christian doctrines. and the tradition that we have here is known as the anabaptist tradition, and these were the protestors after luther- martin luther- who kept right on protesting; they just kept right on doing it. and they said, "no. that's not enough. we need to get more holy, more apostolic, more back to the true church." and from that, we see a great tradition known as the anabaptist tradition. swiss brethren actually began it, but they have a whole set of rules about separating
from the world- church and state should not be one and the same; they should be different, they have different kinds of powers- and that's where they went, and you know, that's the basic idea on the amish. yeah, chris? >> weren't the anabaptists one of the reasons they wanted to move to american and to other outlying continents? weren't they severely persecuted by both protestants and catholics? >> absolutely. there's an amazing story- you've heard of the mennonites- simon menno? he is one of the ones that tries to get some common ground, because when this explodes, this anabaptist fervor- for instance, the town of munster, a group of radical anabaptists took over the town, and they said, "jesus is coming back at any time now, and we need to be holy." so they took over the town, and they actually persecuted lutherans and catholics in it. well, shortly thereafter, an army made up of both protestants and catholics surrounded the town, and many people were- died. now out of that, someone,
like mennonites, like simon, comes out of there and says, "we have to have a more neutral path." and so a certain set of doctrines were developed that the amish eventually draw on. jacob amman, the founder of the amish, tries to find a ground that is not radical, that is not so disruptive, but keeps that wall there. and we look to that period of time, where we're talking about the avoidance- you've heard of the shunning, or avoidance, the ban- that becomes part of it. if somebody has fallen away into sin, not to punish them so much, but to restore them, to bring them back into the fold. so we see that today in the amish realm. holding on to the dress, the hooks and whatever you call those things- yeah, hooks and eyes; yeah, that's it. those kinds of things are all part of the amish attempt- you know,
not to freeze a culture. i know i mentioned that in there, but even since then, i've done more research and seen it's not so much to freeze a culture in, you know, 17th century swiss elements, but more, "where are we going to draw the line?" and in this case, the key idea is nonconformity with the world, and that's where we get the peace element- we're not going to go in the army; that's where we get the element of separating and not being hooked up to the electric company. you may have heard of the challenges- we don't go to education past the eighth grade; a famous- yoder v. wisconsin, i believe, is the famous case that sorted that out, and in most instances, the amish are left alone and allowed to do that. so that's where we are. you had a comment? >> do you know if they pay property taxes, and how does all that work? and do they work outside the farms? where do they get their money? i have like a list. >> you know, it's- now help me out here because someone else has asked that and i had said i would go look
that up, but i'm not sure about property taxes. my gut feeling, if i'm allowed to have gut feelings, is they've got to pay property taxes- you know, they've got to do that. now we don't want to just think that they're involved in farming because they've moved on- cabinet making, furniture making- depending on the group. and i need to say something here a little realistic about the doctrine, that some of these questions actually split the amish into various sects and groups. we talked about the old amish, but we can't think of them as entirely being in that characteristic, because some will split over just how do you divide up the farmland? how should the band be organized? yeah, janet? >> well, they can make some big money now because they do organic farming, and no growth hormones in their livestock. so they can make prime money if they sell their produce from their farms right now. >> and you go down to the amish communities, and here's where you see, "is the wall porous? are we getting some holes in it?" because at the same time,
they don't want to be bothered; then you'll have them, you know, obviously catering to tourists in some areas. now not all- >> i have a remark to make on that. >> all right. i went down to napanee in indiana, which is a large community. not a one of those people who are dressed in amish clothes is amish. they hire the people form the town because they will not participate, but the people then act for them, because they themselves keep withdrawn from the community. i really wanted to talk about the taxation, because if i'm not mistaken, their big protest is that they do not want their money to go for armaments. they want a traditional- peace tradition, and so this is a very difficult thing to say, "yes, i will do this, but none of it must go toward armament." now how do you divide that with the government? >> and it's very difficult along
those lines. sure, we can get to you. >> i have a question not really related to that one, but if they are, you know, against the modern conveniences pretty much just so they can stay as is, how do they- do they accept our modern medicine and hospitals and such, or do they shun that too? >> well, it's a constant- i think you take the incident and then figure out where you're going to be. if you're really ill, you really need to go to the hospital, then you will. there's a lot of healthful home medicine that goes along these lines. let me just give you one example. no, susanna, go ahead, and then i'll give you my example. >> i've had a couple of experiences too. my first job out in kent state speech path was i was one of three who was invited to initiate a program of speech and language therapy services in the schools of tuscarawas county, ohio, and we had to divide the county up. some folks were making wise remarks about the amish, and i said, "i would take that section," because it sounded interesting,
and i thought i would like it. then i found out that school district hadn't had a catholic within 500 yards for many years, so they had to take a vote about whether it was okay. whether that's true or not, i don't know, but i can tell you that i had a wonderful welcome and three extremely happy years there. but i learned about the amish, and i consider them a great people. there were two one - room amish schoolhouses on my beat, along with a couple of high schools that were not amish and a set of grade schools that were not amish. most of the amish children were in the regular school district in garaway. the towns were sugarcreek, dundee- two that i went to. both of the one - room amish schoolhouses had to have a college graduate for a teacher, and they did. but even with a college graduate for a teacher, there was a difference there. whenever i went out to the school eva brown, they were there. and here's a school that i thought, as a 21-year-old right out of college, "if i have children one day,
i would like them to be here," because the way she ran her classroom was exquisite. i would come in my shiny new car, and she would just stop everything, and say, "ah, miss richard is here today. children, let's stop and gather around and listen and see what she has for us today, what we need to do," you know, for her. and then i would do my testing and things, i had a corner of the schoolhouse, and so forth. i went to the other one and at least half the time nobody was there because hazel had let them out early. and the following year, all of the children had to go into the consolidated school district, and the ones from eva brown's school did, without incident, and they all stayed. the ones from the other woman's school went, but then there was a renegade group that went out and started their own school. but that's time for that. what i learned best was taught to me by philip aiker's father.
philip had hearing problems, and i started my conference with his dad, talking down to him, i'm embarrassed to say. but i learned within about two minutes of our starting the conversation that his vocabulary was very much equal to mine. i think i had them confused with christian scientists, or at least in my- i don't know much about that, but my picture was that they had nothing to do with modern medicine, so he would not have known anything. he knew a lot, and i learned an important lesson early in my career, which was, thou shalt not talk down to anyone who's sitting in front of you. and i didn't. but years later, i met a friend who had an amish - sounding name- i don't know if i'm at liberty to say it, so i guess i won't. but let's just say freeman. and after i knew him a while, i said, "were you ever an amishman?"
and he said, "yes." he was episcopal when i met him. so we talked about my experiences and about his life, and i asked him, did- were you shunned when you first left to continue your education or whatever? and he said yes. but he wasn't still shunned- for a good many years now, he's been okay- still visits his mom and so forth. he's a practicing clinical psychologist, so he did take a different path. >> you know, what you're saying, though, is so helpful. first off, your first comment about worldview analysis- that you don't talk down; you learn by talking to believers what's going on in these kinds of areas, and that's so true. the other thing that comes to mind- again, to bring it back into the theme of doctrines- is how difficult it is, really, for the people to maintain, you know, this kind of thing. i'll show you one example.
first, what i was going to say before susanna's good comments, i want to tell you about our entrance into the amish community that even got us far enough to do that video taping that we did. i had a student in my 101 class at western, a woman obviously very secularized. she was a law enforcement major- she was about to graduate and she was going to be an illinois state trooper. and i thought, well, that's okay, that's great. well, then she turns out- i happened to mention, "i sure would like to visit some amish," and she said, "well, my grandparents are old amish." she's going to be packing, you know, like a 44 on the hip and driving around in a car and her parents are old amish- okay. well, so we go over there and we see just how hard it is to maintain this lifestyle, because her parents were mennonites. now the mennonites are much less rigid about any of these things- they're more open to conforming
to the world. in fact, many old amish go to mennonite. and now here's this, you know, young woman who's basically secularized- she's given up religion. well, they took us around in the evening, and we went- it was a small town in downstate illinois and we're going by the football stadium- it's at night. and down, around, and behind the football stadium, parked next to the z-28s and all the shiny teenage cars, there's a buggy, you know, parked up and tied up in the dark. and you know, we say, "well, what's that doing here?' well, she says, "you know, the younger amish tell their parents they're going over to the preacher's house and do this, that, and another thing, and then they get in the buggy and they drive down, park it, get in the z-28 with their mennonite friends and cruise around." and the other one that was just in the paper the other day- and i don't want to make this seem facetious, but maybe some of you saw this. i knew that we were going to come and be talking about the amish here today, and of course, probably the most well known amish community is in lancaster,
pennsylvania. i happened to grow up in chester county, which is the county, one county over, so i'm very familiar with this area. talk about the, you know, closing in of the secular- it was once beautiful farm country, and now you go back and visit it and it's kind of a mini high tech silicon valley out on the corridor of route 30. anyway, this is just sort of a mind blower article that shows how difficult it is. a couple of young amish fellows who are part of the old amish hooked up with the pagans motorcycle gang, bought cocaine from them, and were distributing it in these young amish groups that are called- little youth groups known as the crickets, the antiques, and the pilgrims- these young amish kids, and they're buying cocaine from the pagan motorcycle groups and they're selling it to the younger people. and one of the elders of the group says, "people think"- and i'm quoting here- "people think the amish are
sheltered from the outside world, but the temptations are there. my client's parents are extremely conservative- horse and buggy, the whole bit- they're having a hard time understanding this." and i bet they are. but that's the challenge- you know, you try to erect these walls that go right back to these ancient anabaptist traditions- you know, the motivation to want to be as holy and as sacred as possible. but that insidious way, you know, that the secular world can move in. that's why many amish, of course, are moving out of the more populous areas there. a couple more comments on the amish before we move on to the mormons? go ahead, james. >> well, this was a mennonite group asked me to come in and videotape the inauguration of a pastor, and this was about three months ago. and before the inauguration itself began out in the yard of the church, they had a little rhythm group with drums and singing and having a little jam session. so i got to- i know nothing
about the mennonites, but far from the strict observances i would expect in an amish-related religion. >> it's very mainstream. again, to testify to my d - credentials as an anthropologist, when we originally- you know, before we had the camera crew but when i originally went down to amish country, i just had a camera and i was trying to chronicle, you know, different- the diversity of religious behavior here in illinois. so i pull into this little town, arthur, illinois, and i said, "well, where's the amish church?" you know, and they said, you know, "what train did you get f,uddy?" they don't have churches. the old amish will be out in the field in the summer or in a barn; about twice a month they come together for the various services. but the mennonites, of course, function very much like any traditional, you know, protestant christian group, so- and we see that there. >> are they related to the quakers? >> it's a similar tradition. i wouldn't say it's a close relationship, but it's a similar tradition
of those groups that come out of the protestant reformation, and wish to take a more radical stance on issues. they certainly share with the quakers the peace issue. >> i think they don't have a church either. >> yes, they do. >> or they have a church but they don't have modern- >> it's a meeting hall. >> but the thing i'd like to mention is that i admire the mennonites very much. even though it was illegal, they made no effort to conceal the fact that they were housing the political refugees from el salvador, who came in and were being really hunted. they contributed to- in fact, they housed them, they took them to school, knowing that any time they could be stopped and be arrested because they were doing something illegal. the compassion of these people- it was like an underground railroad bring them in, do your best for them, and pass them on to canada. fascinating people, because they don't hesate
about making personal sacrifices when they see injustice. and i'm not a mennonite. >> yeah, well, you see, that is part of the key here that we're talking about with doctrine- you stand up for a radical stand like the amish might make, separating the secular from the sacred, and yet, in the day-to-day living that you do, you find ways of compassion, you find ways of crossing, and it's a key, you know, beliefs and believers theme that you can't- you know, as susanna was saying- you can't just think, "well, i know about a group. they're christian scientists, they're amish or they're mormon, so i know about them." but probably what you know is a whole bunch of pejorative cliches that have been bunched together. and where you see it, as you're saying, barbara, is right out there on the field. sure. >> i was going to say, my grandparents were quakers, and they just closed their church because there wasn't enough following anymore. but they mingled- all the church people- you know, many of my relatives are quakers- mingle with their whole neighborhood. you would never know they're really any different except the
girls don't- when i still lived there, anyhow- no lipstick, no makeup, no card playing, no dancing. needless to say, when my father met my mother, who was lutheran, she introduced him to the evils of card playing and dancing. >> yeah, and watch out for those! >> i was attending a party and it was one where we all knew the hostess but didn't know many of each other. so we were talking back and forth, and one woman said, "i'd give anything to meet a quaker." she said, "i've always wondered about the quakers," and i said, "well, here i am. i'm a quaker." she said, "but you don't dress like one." she was assuming the gray- the pilgrim outfit, you know. "but you don't dress like one." now this was three years ago, so i can see people's ideas certainly give a graphic of what they have learned. >> well, another thing, the quakers that i know, at least, they are called friends. they have renamed themselves friends.